In the second half of the nineteenth century the New Zealand Parliament spent a great deal of time debating electoral matters, including the franchise. In 1860 the right to vote was extended for the first time - to gold miners.
Any male British subject over 21 who held a miner's right (that is, a licence, which cost £1 per year) was entitled to vote without having to enrol. Most gold miners would normally have been excluded under the property requirement because they lived in tents, rough shacks or lodging houses.
Parliament decided to enfranchise miners because it was worried about the protest and violence that had occurred on the diggings in Victoria, Australia, in the 1850s. The best way to avoid any possible trouble in New Zealand was to give miners a voice in Parliament.
Later in the 1860s, as thousands of miners arrived in the South Island, special goldfields seats were established in Otago and Westland.
Miners were a very important part of the electorate in these years: in 1869-70 over 20,000 miners were entitled to vote, compared to 41,500 registered electors.